Imagine a super-powerful, economical rocket capable of sending humans to Mars. This dream could very soon become a reality thanks to the Starship, the launcher developed by Elon Musk and his company SpaceX.
Starship is scheduled to make its very first orbital flight between late February and early April. This is a key step in its design, but without any guarantee of success. “There are a lot of risks associated with this first launch, so I wouldn’t say it’s likely to be successful,” agreed Elon Musk, often mocked for the Starship’s spectacular explosions during early testing. “But I think we will make a lot of progress.”
SpaceX is awaiting clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to schedule the flight. This will be followed closely by observers around the world, because Starship is likely to establish itself in the coming years as the most efficient rocket on the market.
A multifunctional rocket
The great particularity of the Starship is to be a multifunction rocket. Where most launch vehicles have well-defined goals, the Starship is designed to send satellites into low orbit, carry astronauts, and even serve as a space “refueling station” for other rockets to refuel. in fuel. “What we are looking to develop is a generalized means of transport for large quantities of masses or people (…) anywhere in the solar system”, assured Elon Musk. And in particular to Mars, SpaceX’s ultimate goal.
“In fact, there is not a Starship, there are Starships”, summarizes Xavier Pasco, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research and specialist in American space policy. “But for now, it’s more of a support for Artemis, the major American return to the Moon program.” Starship has been selected to deliver NASA astronauts to the Moon in 2025.
A more economical launcher
Unlike conventional rockets, which are “lost” once launched into space, Starship will be reusable. It should even be even more so than the previous launchers designed by Elon Musk.
This feature will save money and allow for multiple launches. “The Starship is the first rocket which corresponds to an era of industrialization of space”, comments Xavier Pasco. “When it is functional, we can imagine several Starship launches per week, whereas NASA only carries out two or three launches per year at present.”
The most powerful on the market?
The Starship should also revolutionize the category of heavy launchers. It is planned to send a hundred tons into low orbit. For comparison, Falcon-9, its predecessor at SpaceX, can only send fifteen to sixteen tons.
“If Starship works, it will be without real competition for years”, estimates Xavier Pasco. To the chagrin of Jeff Bezos, boss of Blue Origin and main competitor of SpaceX. “Jeff Bezos hasn’t really dropped out of the race, but he’s behind. For the moment, it does not even have the equivalent of the functional Falcon-9”, indicates the specialist.
The development of the Starship is advanced. The schedule remains unclear, but we can imagine the start of production for 2023. Elon Musk wants to finalize Starship as soon as possible anyway, since he needs it to deploy Starlink, his constellation of satellites. Starship is therefore well on its way to becoming NASA’s ally throughout its Artemis program. And who knows, maybe one day take us to Mars.